Safety Not Guaranteed

Safety Not Guaranteed

***

Reviewed by: Sophie Monks Kaufman

The promise of time travel plus comedienne Aubrey Plaza made Safety Not Guaranteed the most sought after film on show at Sundance London. Laddy journalist Jeff (Jake M Johnson), plucks two interns, miserabilist Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and nerd Arnau (Karan Soni), to help him investigate the story behind a personal ad. Placed by paranoid loner, Kenneth (Mark Duplass), the ad has the striking MO of wanting, not love but a companion in time-travel, preferably one with their own weapons. While the question “is he crazy or is this a fantasy film?” - so gripping in Take Shelter - is a compelling reason to keep watching, there are jarring problems meddling with the narrative’s believability.

Tonally, SNG works a mix of screwball caper, as the bickering investigative trio ineptly tail their quarry, and poignancy, as Kenneth slowly begins to trust Darius who has volunteered as his time-travelling companion. The heart of the story is the coming together of two outsiders yet the carelessness with which Darius performs her role as investigative journalist undermines the growing sensitivity she is supposed to have towards Kenneth.

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There are scenes galore in which Jeff forces Darius to duck seconds before Kenneth drives past. This is a character that believes he’s being tailed by government agents, it’s unlikely that he wouldn’t pick up on the new lady in his life diving for cover and it’s unlikely that the new lady in his life wouldn’t pre-empt his suspicions.

Meanwhile, it transpires that Jeff has an ulterior motive for pursuing this assignment: an old fling he never got over lives in this town. Obsession with this piece of his past cues up a lovely sequence that lightly mourns the ephemeral nature of time and all the experiences it carries away from us.

Part of SNG’s festival success is down to the sweetness that lies beneath each of the characters. Jake M Johnson gradually releases the decent urges pulsing behind his character’s insensitive exterior, Karan Soni is adorable as a yearning but terrified nerd, and the leads, although undermined as a duo by the erratic relationship tension, are charmingly watchable as individual oddballs seeking their little piece of happiness.

Reviewed on: 07 May 2012
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A trio of magazine employees investigate a classified ad seeking a partner for time travel.
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Director: Colin Trevorrow

Writer: Derek Connolly

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson, Karen Soni

Year: 2012

Runtime: 94 minutes

Country: US

Festivals:

Sundance 2012

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